Month in a Minute: Top Headlines from Indian Renewable Sector in March 2024

ALMM reimposed from April, no exemptions for open access solar projects


The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has notified the implementation of the Approved List of Models and Manufacturers (ALMM) regulation effective April 1, 2024. The new notification, however, eliminates the exemptions for projects under open access and rooftop solar by private parties, announced in the February order. While MNRE did not provide any clarifications on the exemptions, it mentioned that the ALMM order 2019, which was held in abeyance for a year, i.e., the financial year 2023-24, will come into effect on April 1, 2024.

India achieved a record-breaking annual installation of solar open access, adding 3.2 GW, in the calendar year 2023, a marginal increase from the 3 GW installed in the previous year, according to the recently published 2023 Q4 & Annual Mercom India Solar Open Access Market Report. The exclusion of open-access solar projects from the ALMM order’s mandate, coupled with decreasing module prices, pushed commercial and industrial consumers into accelerating their pending projects and entering into power purchase agreements.

India added 20.8 GW of solar modules and 3.2 GW of solar cell capacity in the calendar year 2023, according to the recently released State of Solar PV Manufacturing in India 2024 Report by Mercom India Research. The country’s cumulative solar module manufacturing capacity reached 64.5 GW, and solar cell manufacturing capacity reached 5.8 GW as of December 2023. Of the installed module manufacturing capacity, about 60% was equipped to make modules in M10 and G12 wafer sizes.

The MNRE has amended the guidelines for the implementation of the solar power program for particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) habitations/villages under the Prime Minister’s Jan Shakti Nidhi initiative. The government had approved the ₹5.15 billion (~$61.9 million) program in January this year, aiming to provide clean and reliable electricity to underserved PVTG communities by installing solar mini-grids. The amendments seek to enhance the program’s effectiveness and reach.

The Ministry of Coal, under its net-zero electricity consumption plan for coal/lignite public sector undertakings, has set a renewable energy target of 9 GW in the coal sector by 2030 from the present 1.75 GW. It will also promote the deployment of rooftop and ground-mounted solar power projects across mining facilities. It also aims to develop solar parks within the reclaimed mining areas and other suitable land, leveraging underutilized land resources for clean energy generation.

The MNRE has expanded the ALMM by adding 3,501 MW of new solar module capacity. The cumulative module manufacturing capacity now stands at 37,421 MW. Tata Power Solar accounts for 2,525 MW of the newly added capacity, while Goldi Solar contributes 976 MW. With the latest addition, the ALMM now has 81 module manufacturers. Even after the latest update, the ALMM has no foreign manufacturers. MNRE has introduced significant changes to the ALMM by adding another module technology and the minimum efficiency requirements.

The Ministry of Power‘s twelfth annual integrated ratings of power distribution companies (DISCOMs) have revealed notable shifts in financial and operational performance. Out of the 55 DISCOMs evaluated for the financial year (FY) 2023, 17 have shown improvement in their grades, while 14 have been downgraded. Of the DISCOMs, 14 achieved an A+ grade compared to 10 last year. Notably, six of these top DISCOMs hail from Gujarat, three from Odisha, and two from Haryana. Eight of these top performers are privately owned companies.

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency has announced a Standards and Labeling Program for grid-connected solar inverters without storage to indicate their overall efficiency. The current minimum energy performance standard will be in force from March 15, 2024, to December 31, 2025. Introducing the endorsement label for grid-connected solar inverters is expected to lead to significant benefits, including an estimated energy saving of 21.1 billion kWh from the financial year 2024-25 to 2033-34. Additionally, it could substantially decrease CO2 emissions, with a projected reduction of 15.1 million tons over the same period.

The Ministry of Heavy Industries has launched the Electric Mobility Promotion Program 2024 with a funding of ₹5 billion (~$60.34 million). The program is scheduled from April 1, 2024, to  July 31, 2024, and targets electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers, including e-rickshaws, e-carts, and L5 category vehicles. The program will offer incentives only to vehicles equipped with advanced batteries to promote the use of cutting-edge technology. A majority of the budget, ₹4.93 billion (~$59.61 million), is allocated for subsidies and demand incentives for buyers of these vehicles.

The Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) has issued directives regarding the installation of rooftop solar systems by sugar factories that have Energy/Power Purchase Agreements (EPA/PPA) with the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDCL) for their bagasse-based cogeneration projects. The guidelines, aimed at implementing the MERC order dated July 21, 2022, stipulate that sugar factories with EPA/PPA agreements with MSEDCL for cogeneration projects based on bagasse must submit applications to the Chief Engineer (Renewable Energy) to install grid-connected rooftop solar systems.

The MNRE has announced that the President of India has approved the PM-Surya Ghar: Muft Bijli Yojana, with a budget of ₹750.21 billion (~$9 billion). The ministry also issued a breakdown of central financial assistance for residential houses, group housing societies, and residential welfare associations. The PM Surya Ghar initiative aims to install rooftop solar projects in ten million poor and middle-class households. The Indian government launched Phase II of the grid-connected rooftop solar program on February 13, 2024.

The Ministry of Mines has unveiled the third tranche of e-auction for critical and strategic minerals. The auction will grant concessions for seven critical mineral blocks across five states. Prospective bidders can purchase tender documents from the MSTC e-auction platform starting March 20, 2024. The price of the tender document is ₹300,000 (~$3,619.9) plus applicable GST. The deadline for purchasing the tender document is May 9, 2024, while the submission deadline for bids is May 14, 2024. The auction marks a step in ensuring the availability of essential minerals vital for various industries across the country.

The MNRE is seeking feedback from the public and stakeholders on the preliminary design specifications for solar cold storage (SCS). The storage capacity of the SCS, ranging from 2 MT to 10 MT, is intended to be exclusively powered by solar photovoltaic as a distributed renewable energy source (DRE). The parameters for SCS have been determined to enable installation at any site across India. The guidelines and specifications are primarily designed for storage and preservation facilities within the temperature range of 4°C to 15°C, catering to both perishable and non-perishable commodities such as fruits and vegetables.

In what could come as a big relief for renewable energy developers, the Supreme Court has considered limiting the undergrounding of power transmission lines to the Priority Area of 3,163 sq km of the endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB) habitat. The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud also constituted an expert committee to determine the scope, feasibility, and extent of overhead and underground electric lines in the area identified as a Priority Area by the Wildlife Institute of India in Rajasthan and Gujarat.